TORONTO – Before drops of Trevor Bauer’s blood blotted the rubber at the Rogers Centre Monday night and television cameras captured his right pinky bleeding like a leaky faucet, Cleveland’s brain trust met here Sunday to discuss their range of possibilities for what could happen in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. Bauer, the Indians’ starter, had ripped open that finger Friday while fiddling around with a drone. It was bad enough that he was scratched from his start Saturday and moved back two days. He had not bled since then, he said, but the team needed to be prepared.
President Chris Antonetti, manager Terry Francona, pitching coach Mickey Callaway, and assistant general manager Derek Falvey mulled their options, trying to figure out how Monday night could go. With a gash kept together by stitches and nothing else, Bauer would try to put the Blue Jays within a loss of elimination.
“We didn’t really know what to expect,” Antonetti said. “So we tried to plan for a variety of different scenarios.”
The one that actually played out was just about the worst case scenario for the Indians. It turned this stadium into a madhouse and the night tense and winding – wonderful theater but not for those without the countenance to handle blood or bullpens that need to get 25 outs. After seven pitchers and 149 pitches, the Indians somehow came away with a 4-2 win, taking a 3-0 lead in the series.
“Sometimes the circumstances aren’t in your favor,” Bauer said. “And good teams find a way to win.”
The entire night turned on a moment in the first inning. After a pitch to Troy Tulowitzki, Bauer felt blood on his ring finger. If he looked down, he would see it on his gray pants, his cleats and even the baseball. He tried to hide it, cradling his right hand in his jersey and finding a way to retreat to the dugout to have it treated.
But he walked Tulowitzki with two outs. There was no hiding it anymore. Toronto manager John Gibbons noted it. The umpiring crew walked out to the mound, followed by the Indians infield and Francona. After just 21 pitches and two-thirds of an inning, Bauer was done. It was now time for a boffo relief corps to try to pull off its greatest feat yet this month.
“After watching Trevor go through this week I was surprised that that happened,” Francona said. “I think everybody was. But it did. I mean, I don't think you can simulate trying to be at game speed and things like that. And unfortunately, it opened up. So kind of go back to the drawing board with Trevor and see how quickly we can start over with him.”
Bauer could joke about it afterward, lightly trolling the Blue Jays and their fans, after the Indians had escaped their crisis and could breathe with relief. In the bullpen, however, Indians relievers didn’t even need a call from Francona. They started rustling and stretching when TBS showed close-ups of Bauer’s pinky. In the clubhouse, Bauer’s teammates quickly realized there was an issue too.
“Were all kind of sitting there, is that something dripping?” Andrew Miller said. “That’s not sweat, that’s blood, so this is going to be a problem.”
So began a long and winding road for Cleveland. Dan Otero was the first to come in. When he got the mound, the traces of Bauer were still there and easily apparent.
Specks of blood dotted the dirt as Otero tried to kick in a footing for himself. Then he began simply just trying to cover it up.
“I was like ‘Get this out of here. I don’t want to see that’,” he said. “It was pretty gruesome. It definitely was not ketchup.”
This was just the latest stumbling point for the Indians and their rotation. They had already lost two of their top three starters – Carlos Carasco and Danny Salazar -- in September. Bauer was scratched from his scheduled Game 2 start this series to give him more time to heal.
Now, he will get more of it. The Indians will not take him off their ALCS roster, Antonetti said, and instead hope he can be ready to pitch in Game 6 or 7, if needed.Corey Kluber and Ryan Merritt are scheduled to start the next two games for Cleveland. Francona had decided on Kluber during Monday’s game, once Bauer came out, but even that plan is tentative, Antonetti said. Indians brass will meet again to see if it needs tweaking.
After Monday, it’s evident that they must plan for every contingency. They had one ready if Bauer could not last long and had to realize it. Still, they ended up with a win regardless. It’s been that type of postseason for Cleveland – where no issue is too large to overcome.
When Bauer returned to the dugout, Miller commended him for trying, telling him how tough he was. He wanted teammates who would not make excuses, he said, and Bauer had pitched despite having one readily available.
Even after the game had ended and medical staff could work on it, Miller could barely eye it.
“It’s pretty gnarly,” he said. “I try not to look at it. I don’t want to see that kind of stuff. I’m not big on blood. I don’t like giving blood. I don’t like looking at blood. So I’m not look at a huge gash like that. They showed it on TV a couple of times and it’s really black. I’ve seen the stitches that are black. It looks like it’s kind of the plague or something. You try to stay away from it.”
Even if he did not stay in the game for long, Bauer still found a way to fire a few salvos at the Toronto crowd. When he walked off the field in the first, waving to the crowd before entering the dugout, throwing one more salvo before he disappeared. Cameras later caught him looking into the crowd and gesturing three fingers and then curling them into a zero to remind the Blue Jays fans just where the series stood.
“That was the loudest standing ovation I’ve ever gotten after an outing,” he said. “So I guess I enjoyed the class of them cheering since I was injured.”